I know at last what distinguishes man from animals; financial worries. ~ Romain Rolland
How do I get scholarships and financial Aid? In this article you will find tips, advise, and information that will help you in your search for the best option.
Federal financial aid can be used for study abroad if (a) credit is earned and (b) the home institution approves the academic credit earned toward the student’s degree. The law states that students cannot be denied federal aid simply because they are studying abroad. The only type of federal aid that is difficult to use is work-study awards, because of employer limitations and reporting restrictions. However, it is sometimes possible to convert a work-study award into a Perkins loan. Ask your financial aid officer for more information and details.
FAFSA is required for nearly every type of aid: Grants (Pell, TEACH, FSEOG, SMART, etc.), Perkins Loans, Plus and Stafford Loans, Public State Funding, and many study abroad scholarships. The FAFSA is usually the first step to any type of public aid or assistance and is based on your financial need according to your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Get started by visiting Federal Student Aid after January 1 for the following academic year and completing the FAFSA by June 30, or your State’s deadline, whichever is earlier.
Depending on your state’s legislation, state-funded assistance may follow you abroad or may be restricted to in-state use. The same is true of private scholarships. It is best to check with your home institution and the provider of your financial assistance. If you are planning to use your financial aid to study abroad, you must maintain full-time enrollment in a degree-granting program, and have your study abroad courses pre-approved for credit before you leave. In addition, the total cost of your program must be documented and verifiable by the Office of Financial Aid.
A variety of factors influence one’s eligibility for scholarships and financial aid and seem to change from one institution to another. At my university, it used to be that state-funded aid could only be used to pay for our tuition. For study abroad, this meant that it could only be used to pay for tuition on exchange programs. After we changed the way in which we recognized/recorded study abroad credit on the academic transcript (resident credit factoring into the GPA), students could use their state-funded aid more broadly to cover host tuition and fees that go outside of our university.
In addition to the financial aid you may already have, and the transferable scholarships you’ve secured through your college or university, you can apply for other grants and scholarships earmarked for study abroad. Don’t underestimate their value; I’ve met several students who have received more financial assistance than necessary for their study abroad experience. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much available for the above-average student who wants to go to London or Sydney. Most nationally known scholarships favor nontraditional and non-English-speaking locations.
Regardless of where you would like to go or what you want to study, it is wise to allow yourself plenty of time to research and apply for scholarships (if you have need). There are many search engines and databases available to help you find good options, several of which are earmarked for study abroad.
Note: If you’re planning to be gone for more than a semester, it is wise to give a homebound and trustworthy parent, friend, or relative Power of Attorney to watch over your financial aid and other assets, while you are abroad. Power of Attorney is a legal instrument used for the primary purpose of delegating lawful and signature authority to another. There are several different types of authorized delegations. Paperwork/Forms can be obtained on the Internet or through your attorney, and are usually filed in the County Clerk’s Office.
:: A whole variety of searchable online databases.
:: Your institution’s scholarship list, your financial aid office, and various national opportunities.
:: Your Academic Department (may have scholarships for its students to study abroad). In higher education, you have to ask. Sometimes this type of aid is not so apparent on the surface or may not even be available unless you ask for it and the Department Chair finds something through colleagues or friends.
:: The employers of your parents or grandparents (often have scholarships available for college students).
:: Any associations, organizations, churches, clubs, or social groups, in which you and your parents belong.
:: Your fraternity or sorority may support study abroad.
:: Keep an eye on the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007 (H.R. 1469, S.991), which is a visionary bill in Congress that could result in some serious cash for study abroad programs and students in the future.
:: Start EARLY! Start NOW! It is not uncommon for application deadlines to be a year or more in advance.
:: Know what each committee is looking for and think about how your achievements fit with their criteria.
:: Make your application stand out from the rest, in a positive way, and this does not mean orange paper.
:: The goals of your application should be to convince your readers that you are one of the best candidates.
:: Write a different essay/statement for each scholarship and explain how you best match its unique criteria.
:: Write well and answer all the questions presented in the application and/or request for personal statement.
:: Include your most significant experiences and how they’ve influenced your life and career goals.
:: Focus on a few of your key experiences and do not include too much information that can overwhelm.
:: Unify your academic achievements, personal beliefs, and key experiences into a definite theme.
:: Focus on your education and how study abroad will enhance your career goals in addition to your life.
:: Have others review your writing and offer advice.
:: Take your essay to the Writing Center on campus and to your Study Abroad Office for review and advice.
:: Re-read and re-write. Edit, edit, and edit your essay.
:: Eliminate any unnecessary length and redundancy.
:: After you have edited thoroughly, then proofread and check for grammatical and spelling errors.
:: Submit before deadlines; submit well in advance.
:: Save some information for your interview. Your essay should not be a catchall, but rather a teaser.
:: Demonstrate desirable traits like flexibility, maturity, adaptability, communication, independence, etc.
:: Display your leadership potential, your commitment to a better world, and clear goals for the experience.